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Deciding on vendors for your event

Whether you’re planning a large wedding or a small birthday party, you’ll likely need some help. Choosing this assistance wisely can help ensure the food, music and atmosphere goes off without a hitch. Here are three of the most important things to consider when deciding on vendors for your events.

Know yourself

  • Are you detail-oriented? Do you like to have every contingency documented?
    • Find the caterer or DJ that matches your level of attentiveness. Ask them to show you their list, plan, or bullet journal. Give them an assignment before your first meeting and you’ll be able to see exactly how she matches up to your meticulous standards.
  • Are you spontaneous and go with the flow? Do you have a tendency to change your mind on a whim?
    • Be sure to ask your prospective vendors how they deal with unforeseen yet wonderful changes to the plan. Better yet, have them give you examples of past parties where something unexpectedly changed and ask them how they handled it. Do they roll their eyes describing a bride-zilla that decided to change everything last minute? Next, please! Or, are they clearly excited to solve a problem and come up with something new? Then it sounds like you found a match!
  • Are you the supervising type? Nothing gets done without your approval? Or are you more comfortable giving someone your vision and giving them creative freedom?
    • Ask your vendors how they work best. Will they always be looking to you for direction or do they do their best work when left on their own?
    • If you are more on the micro-manager side, the last thing you want is someone who will be easily offended by feedback. Make a couple of criticisms of their portfolio and see how they react.
    • If you just want to be surprised and delighted by the end result, make sure they are independent and trustworthy.

Check references

  • These days it’s so easy to get reviews online, but unfortunately you can’t always trust those. Sometimes you need to pick up the phone and call their references. But don’t stop there … be an investigator and find someone who isn’t on the reference list. Ask your caterer about prospective DJs. We bet you’ll get some good gossip that way!
  • To help you be an amateur detective, here are some questions to ask the references:
    • Would you use this vendor again?
    • Describe what you want and ask if they think the vendor will do a good job.
    • What did you like best about them? What did you like the least?
    • If they made that mistake, how did they handle it?

Is the vendor responsible and professional?

Even if your party is a casual affair, the last thing you want is for the person you hired to be disorganized. Even worse, be so negligent that they cause a safety hazard to guests, damage your venue, or even flake out on you.

Nobody wants to think about worst-case scenarios when planning a party. Just double-check the following points with your vendor so you can set your mind at ease.

  • Are they organized? How did they handle their first meeting with you? Were they late and disorganized or were they on time and prepared?
    • It’s very common for the creative one in the business—the chef or the florist for example—to be less organized or business-savvy. Their souffle is to die for, so it is okay if they can’t calculate your bill in their head. However, it’s important that they recognize this about themselves and have an assistant or business partner who has the skills that the artist may lack.
  • Are they professional?
    • This may depend on the type of business they conduct. But, overall, does their behavior, attitude, and even outfit fall in line with what you’re hiring them for?
  • Do they have insurance?
    • I know. This might seem a little biased coming from us. However, this can tell you tons about how responsible they are and how important their business is to them. Progressive provides resources from single-day Special Event General Liability Insurance to more comprehensive annual business policies.
    • When your vendor has insurance, you can have peace of mind that there’s coverage available for their negligence and you won’t be stuck with the bill.
    • If you’re hiring a bartender to serve alcohol, that comes with extra liability for them. It’s important they have the proper alcohol liability for their operation.
    • Did you know that a bounce house is considered high-risk in insurance? If you want high-risk activities at the party like an inflatable slide, petting zoo, or an exotic animal show, be sure they have the specialized insurance to cover their activities.
    • It may be appropriate for a vendor to pass on the cost of insurance to you—especially if it’s an extra cost to them due to the venue you chose. However, you should think twice about a vendor who expects you to provide insurance for their operations.

And, above all, remember, this is your event, and the vendors you select are all part of a business transaction. You’re the boss—do your research, be clear about what you need and expect, and don’t be afraid to delegate. Your vendors will appreciate such directness and it will save you a lot of headaches come event day.